[ExI] "general repudiation of Transhumanism"

John Grigg possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Sat Apr 26 14:36:51 UTC 2008

Last Monday night I attended a Templeton Foundation Research Lecture that
was part of their ongoing series on Transhumanism.  The speaker was ASU
professor Dan Sarewitz and his topic was, "Can technology make us better?"
He attacked Dr. James Hughes (who helped host last year's ASU Transhumanist
workshop) idea that by raising the average IQ of a democratic citizenry that
you can make them more informed and capable citizens, who can then better
defend democratic values.  He felt there was no real connection there.  I
wanted to "magically" remove 50 IQ points from his brain and then ask him,
"are you feeling just as capable a worker and contributing citizen as you
did before?"  After all, as a professor he is a member of America's
intellectual/high IQ elite.  Or does he only want a relative few to be in
that club?

Sarewitz went on to say the two key challenges facing humanity would not be
helped by aggressive intelligence augmentation.  The first challenge regards
individuals, groups and societies experiencing conflicting values and world
views and trying to deal peacefully with each other.  The second challenge
dealt with humanity's ability to predict and manage the future.  He pointed
out that extremely bright and educated people/think tanks have guided
nations into very stupid policies/wars over the years and done great damage
and so why should even brighter technologically augmented folks do better?
I thought to myself that perhaps we should instead use biotech to *weaken*
our collective intelligence...  His talk seemed to inadvertently point out
very bright people as a threat to humanity! LOL

The speaker did grudgingly admit that the technologies Transhumanists
endorse will be coming into being whether he likes it or not.  And he stated
the primary mover for this was military and economic competitiveness between
nations.  He saw this as the main reason why reasonable people like him had
to swing into action and carefully control and regulate these new

I did like his concern about inequality in relation to the subject and it
was a person in the Q & A session who brought up the classic scenario of
rich parents buying their unborn offspring genetic enhancements, causing
even greater gaping inequities within society.  But Sarewitz to my surprise
did mention how in time treatments might become cheaper as they are easier
to do.  And so in time, due to the "trickle down effect," middle class
parents could afford these treatments to enhance their own children.

After the lecture he mingled with the crowd over refreshments and then the
real venom against Transhumanism came pouring out.  Sarewitz very mockingly
referred to the Singularity as a crazy essentially religious obsession
Transhumanists had.  And he spoke about how they envisioned god-like
computers running things and saving us from ourselves.  Sarewitz ridiculed
Ray Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Coming" and said the predictions
were pie in the sky overly optimistic and basically just plain wrong.  Oh,
and the matter of Transhumanist fear of death (especially in middle aged
Transhumanists) was also brought up as a reason why the Singularity was
predicted to be within the lifespan of many somewhat older Transhumanists.
As I listened to all of this I thought to myself, "these people really don't
like Transhumanists and want to totally marginalize us!"  And to think I
always thought the Evangelicals and not the academics would be our sparring
partners. lol

This is a link to an online forum some ASU Professors created to form their
ideas for a "*general repudiation of Transhumanism*."


John Grigg
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